for this game

Blackhawks end drought against Stars in Savard's debut

Nov 30, 2006 - 4:15 AM
CHICAGO (Ticker) -- Denis Savard could not have asked for a better ending in his first game behind the Chicago Blackhawks' bench.

Tony Salmelainen scored midway through the third period and Tuomo Ruutu tallied with 1:48 remaining as the Blackhawks ended a 15-game winless streak against the Dallas Stars with a 2-1 victory in Savard's coaching debut.

Named the 36th coach in team history Monday after starring for the club for the first 10 seasons of his Hall of Fame playing career, Savard seemed headed for a loss as Chicago's offensive woes continued through two periods. In their previous three games - all losses - the Blackhawks managed a total of just three goals.

Trailing, 1-0, after 40 minutes, Chicago finally got on the scoreboard with 8:17 to go.

After cutting off a clearing attempt at the left point, defenseman Duncan Keith fired a seemingly harmless shot toward the net. However, the puck was deflected by Salmelainen and sneaked past goaltender Marty Turco, sailing just under the crossbar for the Finn's first career goal.

"I am just glad it came in a win," Salmelainen said. "I do feel like I got the gorilla off my back. I am happy for Denis, too."

"We win a faceoff in our own end, the puck is along our boards, then we get beat by a long shot," Dallas coach Dave Tippett said. "But that's how it is when it's a tight game. Things like that are where we are right now."

Mike Modano, who helped set up Jere Lehtinen's tally in the first period, was stripped of the puck in the offensive zone by Ruutu, who had a clear path to Dallas' net.

"I quit on the play because I felt I was being hooked behind the net and I thought it would be a delayed (penalty) call and we would get an extra man out there," Modano said. "That is why I let up a bit."

A 2001 first-round pick, Ruutu put a shot between the pads of Turco to give the Blackhawks their first win over the Stars since January 20, 2002.

"When I got to the blue line, I knew I was going to shoot five-hole," Ruutu said. "I knew I had to shoot it hard to get it through him. Then it just got over the line."

Savard was happy with the victory but gave the credit to his players.

"I told our guys, 'It's not about me,'" he said. "I know they are happy for me, but they beat a great team. ... Our players played a (heck) of a game and they get the credit. They stuck with what we told them this morning. We made some adjustments during the game and they responded very well. It paid off big in the third period.

"I'm excited, no question. I have a lot of passion and I have been a Blackhawk for a long time, and I want to be here for life. But it's not about me. Our guys played their guts out."

The Blackhawks were sure to return some praise to Savard.

"You can tell he was a creative player when he played by some of the things he gave us to do and allowed us to do," Keith said.

"It was fun to watch him with all the emotion he has in his coaching," Ruutu added. "I like him like that."

Nikolai Khabibulin made 20 saves for Chicago, which handed Dallas its first loss in nine games when leading after one period.

Turco stopped 26 shots for the Stars, who have lost three straight on the road. The setback was the first in 13 career decisions against the Blackhawks for Turco (11-1-1).

"I think we had chances to win," Turco said. "We had a lead in the third period and that should have been good enough to win, and it wasn't. We talk all year about finding ways to win, and the last two games we found ways to lose. That is not acceptable."

Dallas, which won the first meeting between the teams this season, grabbed the lead late in the opening period. With 1:54 remaining, rookie Loui Eriksson carried into the left circle before sending a pass to Lehtinen, who redirected it past Khabibulin from the doorstep for his second goal in three games.

Turco kept alive his chances for a fourth career shutout against Chicago for over 51 minutes, stopping the first 24 shots he faced. Among the toughest were defenseman Lasse Kukkonen's wrister with 6 1/2 minutes to go in the middle session and Radim Vrbata's snap shot less than 5 1/2 minutes into the third.






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